Counting down to the Cape Epic

HC-category race draws elite, international field

The countdown is on for the Cape Epic mountain bike stage race which will begin on Sunday, March 21 and run through Sunday, March 28. Now in it's seventh year, the race will commence at the Diemersfountain wine estate outside Wellington and will finish eight days and 722km later at the Lourensford Wine Estate in Somerset West.

1200 athletes from 50 countries participate in the annual team stage race through South Africa's Western Cape. Each participating team consists of two riders and starts in one of four different categories: men, ladies, mixed and masters. In the later, both riders must be 40 years of age or older.

The Cape Epic is one of the best-known mountain bike stage races worldwide. In 2006, it became the first ever team mountain bike stage race at which UCI points were awarded. The 2010 race is the only mountain bike stage race to be classified HC (hors categorie) by the UCI.

Thus, the entrants include some of the best cross country and marathon riders in the world like the reigning cross country World Champion Nino Schurter, 2008 cross country World Champion Christoph Sauser, Olympic gold medallist Bart Brentjens, Olympic silver medallist José Hermida as well as three-time Cape Epic winner Karl Platt and two-time Cape Epic winner Stefan Sahm.

The 2010 race also sees 2009 Under 23 cross country World Champion Burry Stander, South Africa's most successful Cape Epic participant to date Kevin Evans as well as the 2009 marathon World Championship silver medallist Alban Lakata, three-time Giro del Capo winner David George, African mountain biking legend Mannie Heymans and the Flückiger brothers, who completed their first Cape Epic in 2009 with a stage win on the final day.

Mountain bikers have come all the way from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Sweden the USA and Venezuela.. A new route is designed each year, and the race is entirely off-road. Within eight days, the 600 two-person-teams have to cycle 722 gruelling kilometres and climb some 14,635 vertical metres on their bikes, which is the equivalent of riding twice up Mount Everest. To deserve the honourable "Finisher" title, the participants have to complete the time trial and all seven stages.

The 2010 race will see a 27km time trial stage on day five in Worcester. The teams will set off at 30-second intervals in reverse order, according to their ranking on the general classification. The race will finish at Lourensford Estate in Somerset West, on Sunday, March 28.

Nicknamed the "Magical and Untamed African Mountain Bike Race", the Cape Epic is also a massive logistics project. The organisers pitch over 1,400 tents per day and transport 280 tons of equipment from stage town to stage town. Twenty-seven heavy-duty trucks and transporters and over 600 crew, volunteers and supplier representatives are involved in implementing the largest mountain bike stage race in the world.

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